Most RA patients are well aware of its typical symptoms, characterized by swelling and pain in the smaller joints, like knuckles, etc. Chronic inflammation present in RA not only impacts the synovial joints, but several research studies have now shown a link between RA and increased risk for cardiovascular problems like atrial fibrillation (i.e. quivering or irregular heartbeat) and stroke.
A positive link has been shown for atherosclerosis i.e. hardening and narrowing of the arteries, which can lead to heart attack, strokes. According to a study, published in Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports, the risk of stroke was found to be higher in patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
As an RA patient, one may wonder, is he or she not going through enough already? However, with greater awareness about the hidden impacts of the disease, one can potentially avoid or, at least, delay the occurrence of heart-related disease due to RA.
- While it is routine to check for inflammatory indicators and damage to the synovial joints, regular pulse measurement and blood pressure monitoring can be helpful in revealing cardiovascular disease in its early stages.
- Among the various treatment approaches available for RA, NSAIDs based treatment has been found to be correlated with hypertension. On the other hand, early treatment with DMARDs, both biologic and non-biologic is found to be associated with lower cardiovascular issues.
- The incidence of risks of atrial fibrillation and stroke increases further with smoking. As an RA patient who smokes, you may be subjecting yourself to a double whammy.
The research carried out thus far also encourages the RA healthcare providers to pay greater attention to the cardiovascular impact of the disease, build awareness in their patients about the hidden risks of chronic unmanaged inflammation, and develop an assessment plan for cardiovascular disorders.
All of this can help both patient and physicians reduce the serious risks RA can cause through the cardiovascular path.
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- Prevention of Stroke in Rheumatoid Arthritis, Alicia, Zha; Mario, Napoli; Réza, Behrouz; Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports, Volume 15 (12) – Dec 1, 2015
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